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Written by Texas Highways


Even before retailers slash the price of leftover Halloween candy, they’re decorating their windows with spray-on frost and setting their sound systems on an endless loop of Christmas carols. By the first week of December, even the jolliest of souls can start to feel a bit jaded.

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Twas the day trip before Christmas and all through the state, the towns were decked out, and Chet could not wait.” We always say, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” and the phrase definitely applies to the way we celebrate Christmas, especially in Grapevine, the “Christmas Capital of Texas.” Donning my best reindeer sweater and Santa hat, I pranced to the metroplex to catch the holiday spirit.

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No state is more musical than Texas, whose very geography seems to hum. Even the city names remind you of songs. It’s easy to break into a medley of “San Antonio Rose,” “El Paso,” “Streets Of Laredo,” “Amarillo By Morning,” “Galveston,” and “La Grange” while checking out the ol’ Texas road map.

FestiveFrontier 1216During the holiday season, the fresh air and cheerful sunlit peaks of Fort Davis become all the more festive thanks to the town’s Frontier Christmas Festival. This mile-high community in the foothills of the Davis Mountains commemorates its Old West history, scenic mountain setting, and the delicious tradition of homemade cookies with the annual holiday celebration, scheduled for Saturday, December 10, this year.


In planning the holiday-themed photo feature that appears in the December 2016 issue, Texas Highways Photography Editor Brandon Jakobeit challenged some of our most creative photographers to interpret the season’s spirit with landscapes and lights.


I push open the weathered metal-and-glass door of Naegelin’s Bakery and immediately face a dilemma. On one side of the narrow room, bakery cases display an array of goodies—kolaches, cinnamon rolls, colorful cupcakes, candies, brownies, cakes, and pies. On the other, shelves are laden with rolls, bread, coffee cakes, gingerbread men, cookies, and bags of fresh tortillas.

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For restaurateur and cookbook author Sylvia Casares, the road to becoming Houston’s beloved “Enchilada Queen” started mid-career. “I was 42 when I left the corporate world,” she says. “Looking back on it, I surprise myself when I think about what I did: Leaving a secure, nice job with great pay and great benefits, and diving in feet-first without any prior restaurant experience.”

Houston Zoo Lights

My 15-year old was skeptical when I told her we were going to see the Zoo Lights at the Houston Zoo for New Year’s Eve. Wasn’t that for babies? Wasn’t she too old for all that now, and didn’t she have better things to do, like play games on her smartphone, watch video clips online, and text her friends? Nope, I told her. We were going. With only a few precious years of child-rearing left to go, I didn’t intend to waste a single season, and soon my powers of persuasion (or coercion) would lose their effect. Plus, I suspected that the outsized holiday spectacle would dazzle her back into childhood enchantment.

TCLindsey46Not exactly lost but not exactly in plain sight, the community of Jonesville sits near the Texas-Louisiana border, just as it has since Texas’ earliest days as a state. Visitors will notice the deteriorating wooden structures along the Union Pacific railroad, relics of the area’s cotton-shipping past. But Jonesville refuses to disappear, thanks largely to its only private business—the T.C. Lindsey & Co. General Store, which has operated continuously since 1847.

Holiday lights with people walking at 8th and Main photo credit Rudy XimenezStrictly speaking, Georgetown isn’t exactly a small town; with just under 65,000 residents, it can probably be better described as small-ish or maybe medium-sized. But anyone who has spent time here around the holidays, when every tree and building on the square is ablaze with lights, can see that in spirit, Georgetown is the epitome of a small town. Despite its designation by the U.S. Census Bureau as one of America’s fastest-growing cities, it remains the kind of place where folks greet each other by name, regard their neighbors as extended family, and welcome visitors as if they were old friends.

 Photo by Will van Overbeek

The holiday season includes a multitude of traditional activities, but one that some people may not be familiar with is the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count.

Sauer-Beckmann Living History Park

One of the best ways to get into the holiday spirit can be to experience Christmas past. Several of the state historic sites in the Texas State Parks system have holiday events that show visitors how Christmas was celebrated historically. The annual tree lighting ceremony at the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park on Dec. 18 marks a 47-year tradition started by the Johnsons. People are invited to listen to the carolers, see a live nativity, meet Santa Claus, enjoy refreshments and watch the tree lighting in the courtyard. As part of this event, visitors wander the trail to the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Park, where park staff and volunteers dress in period clothing and welcome visitors to explore the decorated 1900s German family farmstead, see the holiday tree and enjoy traditionally baked goodies. It also presents a rare opportunity to see the farm at night.

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